Keeping An Eye On Developments
The tourist season seems to be living up to expectations. I see as many as three large tourist ships in the Castries habour a few days every week. As I travel around the island, I see tourists visiting various places of interest. I visited one restaurant on the East Coast this week and was pleasantly surprised to see so many dinner guests.
However, it is in the Vieux Fort area that I was elated to see the level of activity on the Anse Sable Beach. Juliette's Lodge Surfing Center and the Mistral Surf Center were busy. I couldn't help however reflecting on the prospects for the South when a five hundred room hotel comes on stream. I am not at all thinking about all-inclusive. I am praying for the good old EP Hotel where the guests will be free to walk the streets of Vieux Fort Town and environs and support the many retail outlets and restaurants, thus putting money in circulation among the businesses and residents who will be employed as a result.
The industry trend seems to continue to head in the direction of all-inclusives but I still feel that there is room for EP Hotels. Something should be done at the earliest to attract hoteliers that are so inclined. The evidence very much proves that EP Hotels continue to flourish and are being built by many of the established brands.
Last Saturday, the Private Sector including Executives from Banana Exporting Companies and Representatives of Civil Society gathered at the NIC Conference Center to meet with a Delegation from the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly comprising two Co-President and other officials. The delegation itinerary took them to Jamaica and Haiti before the final leg - St. Lucia.
The meeting afforded persons present the opportunity to get a better understanding of the working of the mechanisms supported by the EU-ACP agreement. The point was made that the EU was the main donor at this time to St. Lucia due to the fact that St. Lucia has earned the status of being a middle income country and as a result will not qualify for least developed countries assistance.
The issue of time lag affecting implementation of projects was discussed and the problem of capacity to deal with project development was highlighted. It was disclosed that with new measures in place at both ends, the process of disbursement will improve affording a much more timely execution. Shortly the Barbados EU office will have greater autonomy and will be in a position to expedite advances.
The private sector would finally be given a boost with the OPSR receiving a substantial amount of funding with further disbursements to follows.
The Banana Sector Programmes are on-going and the Banana Trust Fund is well financed. Generally, the EU Funding to the ACP countries seems to be well structured and is ready to deliver benefits to the citizens of St. Lucia. It is now up to the executing agencies.
In understanding the process and the various types of assistance available, it is necessary to become conversant with the Cotonou Agreement. Inspite of the some harsh sentiments expressed during the meeting, it was generally accepted that the efforts of Honourable Glenys Kinnock, MEP, Labour, Wales, Co-President EU-ACP Parliamentary Assembly must be commended. St. Lucia has made a new friend in the person of Co-President Mr. Adrien Houngbedji, an African businessman from the Cameroon who did not speak English but whenever he made an intervention, it was clear that he understood the issues, being an African businessman does help to keep him focussed on the issues that are important to the ACP States.
The Telecommunications battle for inter-connection is about over. Maybe, by the time this article is published the rates would have been public knowledge. One of these days, I will write an article on Cable and Wireless versus the competition. In the weeks ahead, the lines will be drawn and the real competition will begin. However, don't be too quick to write off Cable and Wireless. They will be in the race for a long time to come - they have the infrastructure and have taken the odds, positioning themselves well ahead in the race. It will however, definitely be challenging days ahead.
Mr. Antoine must be congratulated for his tenacity and he should be pleased with the turn out at the march last Monday. Everyone now knows that the Consumer Association is ready to do battle on behalf of consumers. It is now for the consumers to rally behind a young man who is prepared to match words with action. The membership should experience steady growth from here on as there are many battles yet to be fought.
Hats off to the Editor of ONE CARIBBEAN Newspaper - Mr. Denis Da Breo for bringing to the attention of readers the news on the Stanford's Multi Billion Dollars Project for OECS States. I do hope we are ready for Mr. Stanford. This is real money talking and our Entrepreneurs must be ready to take something to the table. This should be a real opportunity for Joint Ventures. Let us demonstrate to Mr. Stanford and his Group that we are ready.
Capital has always been a problem for our business people. First item on the agenda should be a Venture Capital Bank and a real Micro and Small Business Bank that will take serious risk with a discounted rate for prompt payment of installments. Give new businesses, especially innovative ones a real opportunity.
I am not talking about anything that is not possible. Bank of Nova Scotia is giving 20% rebate on Mortgage Interest paid. Our banks must step up to the table. Maybe Mr. Stanford can be the one to wake them up. Can't we see a possible replay of the Cable and Wireless drama adopted to the banking systems? When I look at the many possibilities for real competition I am excited. Did you see the advertisement which was placed by the Stanford Group for Country Managers? I would be interesting to know how many applicants did apply?
Are you beginning to feel some excitement? Forget the war with Iraq, make fighting crime your business so that we can truly welcome the many visitors whether on business or pleasure or doing business while having pleasure. What about some citizens of Iraq loaded with cash seeking asylum? Will we accept them as Investors? We are going to be faced with some serious challenges in the future in accepting Investors - we must be prepared to deal with these issues. I guess the NEC is thinking in these areas. We have dealt legislatively with certain types of Investors who must produce proof of their funds, etc. But I suspect very soon, we will have to work out a formula for accepting Investors of certain nationality. It never ends. I do not for one moment envy those whose task it is to keep on top of all these developments as I refuse to think that we will be taken by surprise.
I welcome the initiative taken by our Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony in calling upon the NEC to come up with strategic plans for dealing with the impending crisis of a possible war with Iraq.
Keep the Faith? God is in Charge!
Spring Expo 2003 - A Real Opportunity for Local Entrepreneurs
Spring Expo 2003 with the theme "Development through trade" scheduled for March 29 - April 3, 2003 at World Trade Center, Mumbia, India is a real opportunity for our local entrepreneurs to acquaint themselves with developments in global business.
The Spring Meeting 2003 of the World Trade Center Association, (WTCA) and the Spring Expo 2003, All India Association of Industries (AIA) and the World Trade Center, Mumbia is billed as a Mega Exhibition in India having a tremendous potential to portray and project countries' industrial achievements and opportunities in various key sectors like tourism, textiles, information technology, software and other major export areas, investments opportunities and incentives offered by Governments.
As many as 330 World Trade Centres from over 100 countries will be participating in this International Conference at Mumbia. An estimated 550 overseas delegates who are among the most influential business leaders from various World Trade Centres around the world, members of Foreign Trade Missions and about 200 Indian delegates are expected to attend. Significantly, the World Trade Centre Network comprises a vast body of over 750,000 major industries around the world. For further details visit www.springexpo2003.com.
It is time that St. Lucia seek to investigate a World Trade Centre Franchise. Ideally, an intervention by the Bank of St. Lucia with the support of all Private Sector Associations would be one approach that could accelerate the process. Of course the housing of such a prestigious private sector organisation could be accommodated within the Bank of St. Lucia. It is about time St. Lucia steps up to the table of international global players.
A strong St. Lucia delegation to the Spring 2003 Expo activities should not be missed as many birds could be hit with one stone. The NDC in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce should get about this task with urgency as there is not much time. The St. Lucia Coconut Growers Association (Copra Manufacturers) should be included in this delegation. India is one country that produces many products from coconut.
This is one project that should be supported by all the government agencies charged with poverty alleviation and assistance to the micro and small businesses. The Private Sector should be supported by OPSR in this project as it presents an opportunity to sponsor a delegation that is sure to produce results in the areas of Joint Venture and appropriate technology, not forgetting an opportunity for a World Trade Centre Franchise.
February 15, 2002